Bill Rauhauser (1918-2017): Respect the Legend

I didn’t know Bill Rauhauser personally; I never took any of his classes, and never really got to hear him speak at length on his life and work.  But I did meet him a few times; once at The Book Beat in Oak Park, a place where I’ve spent countless hours browsing and reading since I was 13 years old.  On that first occasion almost 6 years ago, Mr. Rauhauser was already in his 90’s, and yet he was carrying a DSLR around his neck, out in the parking lot shooting street photography.  I had already purchased and read a signed copy of his book, Bill Rauhauser: 20th Century Photography in Detroit.  But, like a nervous dude at a pickup bar, I needed an entry line to start a conversation.  So, as Mr. Rauhauser settled back into a chair inside the bookstore, I approached and asked if he could sign my book.  Of course, the minute he opened it, he could see that he’d already signed it, but he played along.  I let him know that I appreciated him for the legacy of great photography that he’s nurtured here in Detroit, and told him how much his images resonated with me as a Detroit native.  It was a brief conversation, but I found him to be a gracious and dignified intellectual.  Though I saw him on a few more occasions, I wish I had more time to get to know him.  However, taking yet another pass through Mr. Rauhauser’s wonderful book this week, in a way I do have more time – his images still speak, still reveal that grace, dignity and intellect.  As I wander around Detroit in 2017 with my camera, observing and recording some of the same spaces that he did well over 50 years ago, I am proud to have been influenced by his work – in no small way – over these last few years.  If you haven’t had the opportunity, get to know his life and work.  You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s just a few of my favorites of his work:

This corner hasn’t been like this since perhaps the day this photo was taken but it’s starting to show signs again.
Ironic – 2017 is the year the streetcar came back to Detroit.

This woman looks so much like my late grandma that I took this book to my parents’ house to have them check it out. My dad’s eyes aren’t great these days, and he doesn’t think it’s her, but wow – wouldn’t that be a coincidence?